T’Challa is not dead. The irony of Chadwick Boseman’s death is that given this year’s political environment, hardcore fans of the Marvel Universe may end up seeing changes they won’t like. Social politics may provide an excuse for removing a black male character. With the closing of the Avengers chapter in the MCU, ‘James Rhodes’ and ‘Sam Wilson’ are sidelined.
The tributes to Mr Boseman are not surprising and are deserving. For many American Blacks, the opportunity to see a Black lead character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was uplifting. For almost six decades, the Black Panther represented Marvel’s position on civil rights. The mythical African nation of Wakanda represented to American Blacks the possibilities for empowerment that control and ownership of high-technology could bring.
Add to that the elegance, wisdom, and intelligence that Mr Boseman brought to the character and I can see why so many American Blacks saw Mr Boseman’s portrayal of the Wakanda king as iconic.
What I fear, however, is the merging of the actor and the character as one, a conflation resulting from the outpouring of emotion over Mr Boseman’s loss. The tributes that I see on Twitter, for example, would give the impression that fans see both Mr Boseman and the Black Panther as having passed on. It is natural from the everyday movie watcher’s viewpoint to see actor and character as one and the same. In my opinion, the Black Panther is bigger than the actor playing him. The focus should remain on the narrative surrounding the Black Panther, an African king protecting his people, and now, due to promises to the world to be more open to its problems, a king putting his nation on the level of all other nations.
American Blacks have always been the image that American liberals enjoy wearing on their tie-dye T-shirts. Liberals have used the civil rights platform developed by American Blacks as a spring board for advocating for civil rights for other groups, including women, gays, and immigrants. And American Blacks have always been left behind while other “minority” groups are catapulted to the front of the benefits line.
I see that event occurring with the loss of Mr Boseman. Political pressure will mount on Marvel to use this opportunity to take the Black Panther character in another direction, likely with another gender wearing the Black Panther suit.
Some may ask, “Well, why not? Isn’t this the time to expand and be more inclusive?” My answer is, “Not with this character.” First, no one talked about making “Superman” into “Superwoman.” The DC cinematic universe has always found actors to wear the red boots. If Gal Gadot passed on into the DC sunset, “Wonder Woman” would not become “Wonder Man.”
Besides, T’Challa still has some growth to explore. A number of story lines can still be developed around a young king still learning how to rule. The Black Panther has only had one stand alone film within which to see his growth. By comparison, Captain America has had three (Captain America: The First Avenger; Captain America: The Winter Soldier: and Captain America: Civil War), while Thor has also had three opportunities at growth (Thor; Thor: The Dark World; and Thor: Ragnorak).
If American Black fans keep expressing the loss of The Black Panther and Chadwick Boseman as one of the same, they risk not ever seeing a black male character showcased in the near future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This view may be in the minority, but more times than not, blacks are their worst enemy when doing the pain and suffering dance. It tends to signal an invitation for further relegation to the back of the bus …